Landscape photography is very much a game of chance. Many times I have planned a photo session, arrived at the location and been let down. There are so many factors to take into consideration it can get a bit stressful. In this section I will show you how and what I use to try and plan a shoot.
The Internet & Apps
The internet is undoubtedly the best tool for photographers (that and the invention of digital). There are tons of useful tools and sites across the net that can help you out. Here is a quick list of ones I use most… (I would be here forever if I listed them all).
Google Images – I know, half the time you search for stuff in Google images and it comes up with completely irrelevant images but don’t let that put you off, this can be a great way to find new spots. Also if you’re bored you can search for 241543903.
Flickr – Flickr is great way to gain inspiration, as well as show your pictures off. Search for areas nearby you, see what other people have photographed. If you like a photo, make sure you check out the rest of the photographers images. They may just have a little gem of a location you were never aware of. Also search for and join groups, they are a fantastic way to find locations and other photographers near you.
Google Maps – I imagine a lot of people using reading this already use Google Maps. It’s amazing. Spend some time just scrolling over your local area. I have used it a few times to locate lone trees in the middle of fields. Make sure you have the “Photos” layer ticked in the top right to see where people have taken their shots. Street view is also a neat little trick, especially if you are planning on photographing buildings.
Google Earth – A downloadable version of Google Maps with a few awesome little extras thrown in. It allows you to see terrain and in some locations 3D cities. Its defiantly worth having (as its free). Also available as a free smartphone App!
Bing Maps – Stupid name and can be a touch sketchy, Bing does offer something that Google Maps doesn’t… A perspective view. This can be quite useful and I have used it for finding entry points when Urbain Exploring.
BBC Weather (UK) – One of the sites I use for my weather forecasts. The weather is given in 3 hour chunks but more useful is the interactive cloud cover map, sunrise/sunset times, visibility and wind speeds. I believe the BBC get their weather from the Met so its fairly reliable.
Accuweather – Accuweather used to be my favourite but has recently had a design change and I’m not as keen. But that aside they give pretty accurate weather predictions and up to 15 days ahead! (BBC only go 5).
The Photographers Emphemeris – Hands down the best idea EVER. All it requires is a quick free download and it gives you access to Google maps but with Sunrise/Sunset/Moonrise/Moonset directions as a line over the map. Just put a marker where you are planning to shoot and see exactly what direction the sun is coming and going. A must have! Also available on iOS and Android, though these versions cost a couple of quid (Still worth it!).
Google Sky Map App – If you ever do night photography this is a essential. Using augmented reality you can point your phone in the direction of stars and it will tell you what they are. Very useful for finding polaris. Best of all… its free! (I believe there is a version for the iOS called “Star Walk” that does the same).
Batteries – Make sure they are charged, the more the merrier. Also a little hint is to keep them warm, cold weather depletes the battery!.
Memory cards – Make sure they are empty and take lots!
Check your camera – A few times I have got home or halfway through a shoot and realised I haven’t set the ISO correctly or locked the white balance on a panoramic. Take a minute to make sure everything is how you want it.
Watch the Skies – Out of the way superman, I’m talking about clouds! Watch which way they are moving and what is likely coming your way. When shooting sunsets the best is when you get cloud above but a small gap where the sun is setting, this will give you that amazing red sky.
If you were going to go, GO! – I’m sure I am not alone in this but I often sit at home, in the warm, and talk myself out of going to take photos. DON’T! The worst is when you are sat at home and the sky lights up with colours that you dream of. Make the effort, if you don’t get any photos at least you got some exercise.
Leave early for work – Sunsets are always a treat but one of the hardest to motivate yourself for. Rather than missing your Sunday lie in, set your alarm half hour earlier on a work day and stop off on the way.
Drive or walk a different route – If you make the same journey day after day then take a different route. You never know what you might find.
Look behind you – If there is one thing I have learned from pantomimes, it’s to look behind you. It’s very easy to get caught up in what the sunset is doing and forget the rest of your surroundings.
Get there early – I’m terrible for this and often end up prancing around like a drunk Bambi. Get there early and get some shots lined up in your head. Even if you know the location like the back of your hand!.
Don’t leave as the curtain sets – We’ve all been there, the sun has set and you pack up all your gear and skip off home. WAIT! Sunsets love an encore and you are often blessed with some amazing views quite a while after the sun has gone.
Im sure a lot of people already know most of the points I have raised here but it is very easy to get caught up in the moment and forget. If you have any tips or advice let me know and I will add them to the list.